Note: LSU junior cheerleader Julie Rapp of League City, Texas, will keep a blog here on LSUsports.net from the squad's trip to China. Julie is a public relations major with a minor in business who is in her third season cheering on the Gold and Nationals squads at LSU. The LSU cheerleaders depart Thursday, Dec. 13, and return Tuesday, Dec. 18.
Many thanks to the Universal Cheerleaders Association (UCA) and the Chinese Cheerleading Association for taking care of all flight and hotel accommodations on this trip.
Dec. 19 - Home Sweet Home
After a long day of traveling, the LSU cheerleaders are officially back in the United States! Between switching flights, going through customs, and rechecking bags, we all made it safely.
While in China, we were lucky enough to meet some amazing people. The memories we made with them are unforgettable. Not only did we help the Chinese cheerleaders, but this journey also strengthened our team. We could not be more thankful for UCA and the China Cheerleading Association for giving us this incredible trip. Again, it was such an honor to represent LSU and America.
We are not done yet! We have one day off, to rest, and then we are back to work to amp up our routine for UCA College Nationals. Between traveling to Orlando for that and cheering at the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, we have many more adventures within the next month.
I hope you enjoyed reading about our trip through my blog! Capturing the moments is what it is all about. Keep track of when we will perform our national's routine at LSU and come cheer us on!
HAPPY HOLIDAYS AND GEAUX TIGERS!
Dec. 18 - Time to Be Tourists
At last, we were finally able to explore the beautiful cities near us. We were off at 9 o'clock this morning for a full day of site seeing and shopping! We had no idea what the day had entailed but we could not wait to see the sights.
Before we knew it, we were all on a bus and headed to who knows where! While driving down the road, we turned a corner to see a huge statue in the mountains of a Buddha. We soon found out that we were going to see it up close! When we got off the bus, we met up with a lady named Christina. She was our tour guide for the whole day. As we walked through the park, she told us historical facts and talked about the unique Chinese architecture. We also found out that the statue we saw was the largest Buddha in the world! How cool!
Have you ever wondered why Nine Dragon has that name? This is because when Buddha was born nine dragons flew over the Earth and showered it with rain. We learned this fact when the small, baby Buddha appeared from the lotus flower and showered all of us, and other tourists, with water.
After we left, we were off to lunch! Christina took us to lunch at, of course, another Chinese restaurant. This restaurant was in downtown Wuxi. Wuxi is the second largest city in China. We were fortunate to try some more traditional Chinese dishes. These were surprisingly amazing!
Underneath the restaurant was the largest pearl exhibition center in China. It is called the Wuxi Yuan Run Ju Pearl Company Limited and they make Fu Yu Run pearls. A worker even cracked open a real oyster, which was 5 years old, and gave us pearls straight from the inside. This was a perfect place for many of us to get gifts for our families. There were many necklaces, rings and bracelets all with the gorgeous pearls. Once we were done, we headed to the Wuxi Plaza to shop for the rest of the day.
In about 3 hours, it will officially be Dec. 19 here in China. This means it will be my 21st birthday! Since we leave from Shanghai at 2 p.m. on the 19th and return to the United States around 3 p.m. on the 19th, I will have 38 hours of my birthday!
THE LSU CHEERLEADERS ARE MISSING ALL OF OUR TIGER FANS!
WE ARE BATON ROUGE BOUND TOMORROW!
Dec. 17 - Teaching How Cheer Like LSU Tigers
Since UCA is helping China to evolve their cheerleading, they asked us to help with a clinic they had scheduled for today. When we got to the arena, Cooper, the UCA international representative, split us up into different groups. He wanted two couples to stunt, three girls to tumble, two girls to jump, one basket group and one pyramid group. Cooper would call each group up at a time and would speak to the Chinese crowd about what to look for and to notice when we demonstrated. Of course, someone had to translate everything he said. He told them to focus mainly on synchronization, timing and technique. This was a great experience for us because we were able to see how eager the China coaches and athletes wanted to learn from our team.
When we were finishing up the clinic, we were told to get ready for a picture. Even though we did not know who it was, we did as we were told. Cooper introduced us to a man named Mr. Miao. We soon found out that he is the Executive President of the Chinese Cheerleading Association and was the director of the entire 2008 Beijing Olympics. Our entire team was in awe of him! How awesome is it that we were able to meet such an important man? We thought it was!
Around noon, we were finally off to see some sights! Finally, we were able to see how beautiful China is. Our guides took us on a tour of a Chinese temple. The buildings and sculptures were gorgeous.
After our tour, we went back to the arena to teach another clinic. This time, we were able to interact and do hands-on teaching with a Chinese, college cheerleading team. In particular, I taught a girl how to do a back tuck basket. The joy in her face, when she landed her first one is indescribable. I do not think I will ever forget that moment. She jumped out of the guy's arms and ran to give me a hug.
One of the most memorable things that has happened to our team is that we have had to opportunity to trade clothes with the China cheerleaders. We have been switching sweatshirts for shirts and shirts for sweatshirts. It will be a perfect way to remember our trip when we get back to America! They have been so excited to wear our clothes and we have been even more excited to wear theirs. It is just a small way to bond our teams together.
Three letters describes our next adventure for today - KFC. We were finally getting to eat something that we recognized! Our guides drove us an hour out of the way to take us there. Let's just say, I do not think those KFC employees knew what they were in for! Not only did none of them speak English, but also we were dying for some french fries and chicken! Needless to say, we ate enough for the rest of our trip!
I cannot believe that tomorrow is our last full day in China. We have been having so much fun that it has flown by!
Dec. 16 - The Reason We're Here
Today was the day! The reason why we came to China had finally arrived. It was our turn to perform at the closing ceremony for the Chinese cheerleading competition. We had about 20 minutes to warm up behind stage before we went on. We were told that after our guide, Rocky, goes on stage to break-dance, it would be our turn. We waited patiently, all excited and anxious to finally show the routine we had been preparing for the last month.
As the red curtains on the stage closed, the Chinese cheerleading staff pulled mats out on the floor for us. This was our cue that Rocky was in front performing and it was our turn to get ready. All of our weekend and two-a-day practices led up to this moment.
With our adrenaline running and the crowd of hundreds yelling for us, we performed a GREAT routine and hit everything! The feeling was incredible, especially for our new guys who have never competed before. All of our hard work paid off! We finally were able to show them how different American cheerleading is from theirs. Not to mention, we confused them when we spelt out G-E-A-U-X with our signs. They probably thought they knew how to spell GO!
As always, it was such an honor to represent LSU and wear purple and gold. Now we are off to celebrate together as a team, with the Chinese cheerleaders and a few UCA workers. Karaoke, here we come!
Dec. 15 - Day 2 in China
Knock! Knock! Knock! One of our translators, Peter, was knocking on our door at eight this morning. He told us we had to be ready, for the day, in 15 minutes. All of us scrambled to get bundled up, since it is freezing outside. We rushed over to breakfast to find another Chinese traditional meal. This time we were treated to pound cake along with boiled eggs, cabbage dumplings and rice. Best of all, they served us an American favorite, COFFEE!
Then it was on to the first day of competition. We felt like rock stars as we arrived again. At the competition, there were over 1,000 cheerleaders and 300 teams, all wanting to take pictures with us. Usually back at home, the girls get all the attention but here in China, the boys are the biggest hit...and they are eating it up! The people we have met here are so gracious and have the warmest hearts.
Our job during the competition was to critique each team. We really started missing home when the routines had Gangnam Style in their music. It reminded us of when the Tiger Band plays it in Death Valley. Their routines are a lot different from cheerleading teams in America. They are more focused on dancing, while our typical teams tumble, stunt and lead the crowd.
As we took our lunch break, we had to tell Helen and Peter goodbye. We loved having them as our translators. They were the sweetest!
When the competition was over, we were able to practice. A lot of the Chinese cheerleaders stayed to watch and cheer us on. Our performance went great! Send us prayers and luck for our performance tomorrow!
Dec. 14 - Day 1 in China
9 a.m. Day One. First Chinese breakfast experience. We were all anxious and nervous to see what they would serve us. Each table was set with traditional Chinese chopsticks, ladle, bowl and turn table. Each dish was filled with boiled eggs, dumplings with cabbage, sweet chocolate bread and beignets (with no sugar). We all loved it! The only two odd things were the mushy, watery rice and warm milk, which was served as our beverage.
Once we left breakfast, we only had 30 minutes to change into our practice clothes. We took a 3-minute walk to the practice facility. On our walk, we noticed an amusement part. Helen (our translator) told us we would be going there later!
As we arrived at the facility, we felt like superstars! All of the Chinese teams clapped and waved at us as we walked by. People were coming up to us asking for pictures, wanting to talk and making us feel very special. Apparently, the peace sign is very popular here. The locals do it in every picture, so we have been catching onto the trend.
Rocky informed us that we only had 15 minutes to stretch and that we would be practicing on the stage for 5 minutes. While we were waiting for our turn, we met a cheerleading team filled with 7 and 8-year-old girls. They were so cute and so intrigued by us. All of them taught us their English names. We let one of the girls sit on Chanse's shoulders and Sadie taught them our traditional L-S-U motions. They loved it!
It was finally our turn to take the stage to start our warm-up. Our music was not set up so Coach Kate had to count. 5-6-7-8...we began! Mid-way through, all the little girls started to count with her. When we finished, everyone in the building began to clap. After we got off the stage, all of the other teams surrounded us to take pictures with them.
After lunch, we went to Joyland, the amusement park. We were all so excited because it reminded us of Disney World. When we walked in the gates, no one was inside. Everyone was in school, so we had the whole park to ourselves! We acted like kids, running in and out of shops and taking pictures of everything. Riding rollercoasters was the best part! Helen even stunted with our guys!
Our dinner reminds me of only two words- DUCK BLOOD. We had eaten some of our meal and one of the things they brought out was a soup. Our teammates who sat with Helen watched as we took our first sips. They proceeded to ask if we liked it and then told us what it really was. Duck blood. We were all disgusted but could not be disrespectful. Not to mention, the last thing they brought out was an entire fish (head and all). I could not even stand to look at it in front of me. We are praying for better meals in the upcoming days. Fingers crossed!
Tomorrow starts competition day here in China!
Dec. 13 - We Made it to China!
What are you supposed to do on a plane for 15 hours?
Thankfully, I got lucky and had a seat right next to one of my teammates, Sadie. The plane was set up in multiple rows with 2 seats on the left, 5 in the middle, and 2 on the right. This was the biggest plane I had ever been on.
The first thing that caught my eye was the screen on the back of each seat. You were able to tap "Flight Path" and see a map of the world. It showed our start point, current point and end destination. It also gave the Chicago time and Shanghai times with temperatures. This was the first instance where we were able to see everything translated in Chinese. I thought it was interesting that instead of flying in a straight path from Chicago to Shanghai, it was shorter to fly to the North Pole (Hi Santa!) and then down. It seems like it would be a longer path but if you follow the curvature of the Earth, it is a shorter distance.
For about the first 6 hours of the flight, we slept straight through. You could not feel any turbulance. It was great! Right when we woke up food was served. I spent the rest of my flight reading, talking with Sadie and, of course, writing the blog entry.
After we landed, we went to baggage claim to pick up our luggage. We were all in awe of the Chinese symbols on every billboard and trash cans. Once we picked up our bags, we had to exchange our money at the currency exchange booth. We each decided to exchange $160. This translated to around 950 yen. Then we headed to customs.
Our first scary experience is when we walked outside the airport through a massive crowd of people, who were lined up to see their loved ones. It felt like we had a million eyes watching our every move. We were the foreigners! As we were walking through the crowd, a guy ran up to us and said to follow him. This was our excort and guy in charge, Rocky. Helen, Bob, and Peter were Rocky's helpers, who spoke a lot more English than he did. We soon found out that they would be our translators.
Since we had to wait for our other teammates flight to get in, Rocky took us to eat our first "real" chinese meal. They explained to us that it was their fast food Chinese. Some of us were hesitant to try the food but the others jumped right in! It was definitely NOT the egg rolls, chicken fried rice and lo mein we are used to!
Once the other flight arrived, we took a 3 hour bus ride to our hotel. We are staying in the outskirts of Shanghai. The bus stopped for a few of us to go to the bathroom. This was our first encounter with a public bathrooms in China. They only have holes in the ground - NO toilet seats or toilet paper! Luckily, we were prepared with our small tissue boxes.
When we finally got to our hotel, the director of the cheerleading competition that we will be performing at greeted us. He told us that we are such inspiration for their cheerleaders and how excited they were for us to be here. We felt so honored that UCA had picked us to represent America and gave us this amazing trip. By the time we got in our rooms, it was around midnight. We were all excited to sleep in a bed instead of in a plane seat. Tomorrow will be a long day of practices and sight seeing.
Goodnight Tiger fans!
Dec. 12 - Sprinting Through the Airport
See you in China!
Passport, check! Visa, check! Eye sleeper, check! Advil PM, check! Snacks, check!
I am finally ready to go! One group of us left at 4:30 a.m. on Wednesday, from LSU to head to the New Orleans airport. Even though it was early in the morning, we could hardly contain our excitement. A few teammates and I stayed awake talking about what we thought China would be like and the dreaded long flight we were about to take.
Has a flight attendant ever tried to be your best friend? Well...this happened to a few of us on our first flight. Kelsey, Sadie, Coach Kate and I sat at the back of the plane (not our choice). Anytime we would get comfortable, the questions and conversations began. Where are you going? Why are you going there? Would you like a Café Du Monde beignet? What are you studying? You all look younger than you are! Not only were the questions bad enough...at one point, he started shaking my chair and saying TURBULANCE!
When we landed in Chicago, we realized that we were going to have to sprint to our next flight. Our plane was so small that they had to stow our carry-on bags underneath the plane. This caused us to have to wait for our bags after we got off. Let's not forget that our next flight left in 20 minutes - we were at Gate G and had to go to Gate K!
We opted for Sadie and Coach Kate to run to our next gate to let them know we were coming. A few of us said we would get their bags and not to worry. As the rest of us waited for Coach Chico to get off the plane and to get our bags, we could not do anything but look at our watches. Finally, we got all of our stuff and started to sprint to Gate K.
We made it! Then Coach Kate asks, "Who has my bag?" All of us looked around with blank stares...we had forgotten her bag at the other gate! Second by second we all started to panic. I volunteered to run back and find it. When I arrived at our old gate, not a single person was around. I went to the next gate and waited in line to talk to the lady. May I remind you, five more minutes until our Shanghai plane departed! It was finally my turn in line. I explained to the lady what had happened. Luckily, she said she had the bag! Pure relief ran across my face and through my body.
After a long sprint through the Chicago airport, I finally made it back with Coach Kate's bag and was the last one on the plane.
We are now headed to Shanghai!
Before I go, a big shout out to the Universal Cheerleaders Association (UCA) and the Chinese Cheerleading Association for taking care of all flight and hotel accommodations on this awesome trip! It is truly an opportunity of a lifetime.
Dec. 11 - Practice, Practice, Practice
The LSU Cheerleading Nationals squad received a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to perform at the 2012 China Cheerleading National Championship near Shanghai on Dec. 16. The China Cheerleading Association asked the Universal Cheerleading Association (UCA) for a college level, co-ed cheerleading team to perform at their competition. They requested a team that is excellent in crowd traditions and skill level - and UCA invited us!
Ever since we found out about this awesome opportunity, we have been practicing non-stop. Between finishing up with school and two-a-day practices, these past few weeks have been geaux-geaux-geaux. We had a family-and-friends performance this past Saturday that could not have gone better. In addition, we are performing at halftime for the LSU Men's Basketball game December 11 with the routine we will be performing in China.
Throughout our journey, I will be blogging about our many adventures. I hope to keep our LSU fans up to date with all of the fun activities we will experience on this trip.